Briefing Concludes in Prop 8 Legal Challenge

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Nation's top civil rights groups and legal scholars agree: Invalidate Prop 8
January 21, 2009

(San Francisco, January 21, 2009) — In the last round of an expedited briefing schedule, final briefs were filed today by both petitioners and respondents in the lawsuits challenging Proposition 8. The briefs filed today by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU responded to the more than 60 amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," briefs filed in the case last week.


Those amicus briefs highlight the extraordinary breadth of support for Petitioners' argument that Proposition 8 is invalid. The supporters represent the full gamut of California's and the nation's civil rights organizations and legal scholars, as well as California legislators, local governments, bar associations, business interests, labor unions, and religious groups.


In amicus briefs filed last Thursday, the nation's leading legal scholars argued that Proposition 8 is invalid because it seeks to eliminate a fundamental right only for a targeted minority, which cannot be done through the initiative process. Professors from the most prominent universities and law schools in California and the country authored briefs urging the Court to invalidate Proposition 8, including scholars from Harvard University, Stanford University, Yale University, University of California (Berkeley, Los Angeles, Hastings, Davis, Irvine), University of Southern California, University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, University of San Francisco, Loyola Law School, Santa Clara Law School, Chapman University, and Pepperdine University.


A brief authored by Hastings Law Professor Donna Ryu and joined by 20 constitutional law experts, argued: "Proposition 8 represents the first time that the California initiative process has been wielded to abolish a fundamental freedom for an unpopular minority group and to alter the Constitution so as to mandate governmental discrimination against that group. In this way, Proposition 8 attempts to breach some of the most elemental textual and structural promises of our state Constitution. It revokes a fundamental right that, in the words of the Constitution, is "inalienable." It dismantles constitutional equality for a single group of Californians – a group that, because of its history of oppression and stigma, is entitled to the highest level of constitutional protection against discrimination."


Another brief authored by Professor Karl Manheim, one of the foremost authorities on California's initiative process, stated: "Proposition 8...improperly attempts to revise the Constitution by taking the unprecedented step of singling out a suspect class and depriving that class — and only that class — of a fundamental right."


On January 15, 2009, 43 friend–of–the–court briefs urging the Court to invalidate Prop 8 were filed, arguing that Proposition 8 drastically alters the equal protection guarantee in California's Constitution, and that the rights of a minority cannot be eliminated by a simple majority vote.


Other briefs supporting the legal challenge to Prop 8 were filed on behalf of 652 current and former California legislators; dozens of bar associations, legal aid organizations; and numerous California municipal governments.


In May of 2008, the California Supreme Court held that laws that treat people differently based on their sexual orientation violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and that same-sex couples have the same fundamental right to marry as other Californians. Proposition 8 eliminated this fundamental right only for same-sex couples. No other initiative has ever successfully changed the California Constitution to take away a right only from a targeted minority group. Proposition 8 passed by a bare 52 percent on November 4.


The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU filed this challenge on November 5, representing Equality California, whose members include many same–sex couples who married between June 16 and November 4, 2008, and six same-sex couples who want to marry in California. The California Supreme Court has also agreed to hear two other challenges filed on the same day: one filed by the City and County of San Francisco (joined by Santa Clara County and the City of Los Angeles, and subsequently by Los Angeles County and other local governments); and another filed by a private attorney. These three cases are jointly under review by the California Supreme Court.


Serving as co–counsel on the case with NCLR, Lambda Legal, and the ACLU are the Law Office of David C. Codell, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.


On November 19, 2008, the California Supreme Court granted review in the legal challenges to Proposition 8, and established an expedited briefing schedule, under which briefing was completed on January 21, 2009. The California Supreme Court has stated that it may schedule oral argument as early as March 2009.


The case is Strauss et al. v. Horton et al. (#S168047).


For a complete list of organizations filing amicus briefs, visit www.nclrights.org/overturn8, www.aclu.org, www.lambdalegal.org and www.eqca.org.


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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. www.lambdalegal.org


The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.nclrights.org/overturn8


The American Civil Liberties Union is America's foremost advocate of individual rights. It fights discrimination and moves public opinion on LGBT rights through the courts, legislatures and public education. www.aclu.org


Equality California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots-based, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to achieve equality and civil rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians. www.eqca.org


Contact: Jason Pérez Howe, Senior Public Information Officer; Office: 213.382-7600 x247; Email: jhowe@lambdalegal.org

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